On the Tuesday, we jumped on the subway and rode almost to the end of the line, down to Wall Street. I’m not sure what I thought it would be like, but it was just an ordinary street. The streets weren’t paved in gold, and all the business people in suits looked like just that – normal business people.
Afterwards, we took the free Staten Island Ferry across the water, which gives great views of the Manhattan skyline as well as steaming past Liberty and Ellis Islands. The ferry was a mix of over-zealous tourists elbowing each other out of the way to get a space at the windows, and the disinterested locals, who had obviously ridden this route multiple times. The weather was clear and dry, but freezing. We spent most of the ride outside on the deck and were completely wind-swept by the time we got into St George’s, on Staten Island. Once we got off, we hopped straight onto the next ferry back to Manhattan.
In the afternoon, we visited the 9/11 memorial. On each of the sites of the two towers there is a ‘waterfall within a waterfall’. Around the outside, the names of all the victims are inscribed. Each morning, staff place white roses in the names of anyone who should be celebrating a birthday. It was beautiful and peaceful, but also heartbreaking.
As the sun started to set, we joined the queue to enter the 9/11 museum. It turned out that Tuesday evenings have free admission. The museum is brilliant, if chilling. With the events still in living memory, and all the technology available at the time, the events of the day are recorded in minute detail and come alive in the museum in a way that doesn’t happen when you look at Roman or Egyptian artefacts.
Wednesday was the coldest day while we were away, and for some inexplicable reason, we chose this to be the day we hired bikes to explore Central Park. We booked the bikes online the night before, which proved to be much cheaper than simply turning up at the bike hire shop.
We hired the bikes for four hours, but that was not nearly enough time to explore all of the park. It would take days to really get into all the nooks and crannies. We downloaded the app from the Central Park conservancy which includes a celebrity audio tour, and a very detailed map. My favourite places in the park were Belvedere Castle, The Dairy and this statue of Alice in Wonderland.
That night, we went to Chennai Garden by Tiffin Wallah, a vegetarian Indian restaurant. We had an assortment of appetisers to start and then I had Palak Paneer – a dish with spinach and cheese, and D had Baigan Bartha – a curry with aubergine, tomato and onion and we shared a rice. It tasted amazing, and we left with our bellies full and our spirits high.
On Thursday, we joined the mass of people waiting for the Ellis Island Ferry. This is another place that does airport style security scans. The boat does a continuous loop between Manhattan, Liberty Island and Ellis Island. You can get off at whichever you choose to. The landing jetty on Liberty Island is almost round the back of Lady Liberty, so the first views as you step onto the island are her back. It’s certainly a novel way of seeing her, and I was so amused by this that I stood there and chuckled to myself. Then I realised what a weird sight I was being and headed off to find D.
Liberty Island does have free audio guides, but when we got there a tour with a ranger was just starting. She was really enthusiastic and we enjoyed listening to her explain about the origins of the statue and all the symbols on the base. We were surprised to find out that Gustave Eiffel designed the structure that supports the statue and also that the copper plating is only a few millimetres thick.
Not long after, we hopped back on the boat to Ellis Island. The sheer size of the immigration hall was impressive. I imagined what it must have been like to have to wait there after months on a ship, waiting for someone to call your name, and hoping that there would be no issues with you continuing your journey into America.
Back on Manhattan, as a surprise, D had made reservations for us to go to a Cat Cafe. Meow Parlour is a place you can go to be with cats in a home-like environment without the responsibility of owning a kitty forever. However, if you fall in love with one of your feline playmates, you can adopt them through the cafe’s link with a cat adoption charity. We spent half an hour in there (which went way too quickly), playing, stroking and cooing over adorable sleeping kitties.
Third and final part coming soon…